You read here earlier this week about the big announcement: The Opelika-Auburn News has picked up my blog and will now host it on its web site, www.oanow.com!
I'll celebrate the move by liveblogging Gov. Bob Riley's appearance at the sold-out Lee County GOP dinner tonight in Opelika. Riley's been mentioned as a potential running mate for Republican presidential nominee-to-be John McCain. With the State Senate in a stalemate and rumors of a special session dominating the chit-chat among state legislators in Montgomery, Riley should be set to deliver some interesting remarks. Log on around 7 p.m. Central time to follow the action!
Follow the leader: Click here to follow me to my new location.
I look forward to meeting you there!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Hillary Clinton made her first appearance -- ever -- on the O'Reilly Factor tonight.
Clinton faced off with the show's self-assured, self-described "humble correspondent" namesake, Bill O'Reilly, this morning in Indiana. The interview was split into two parts, the first of which was presented tonight.
Hillary Clinton? Bill O'Reilly? Cage match fight to the death? How ugly would it get?
Once she found her footing after spending two full minutes discussing Jeremiah Wright, she was, in a word ... terrific.
Hillary went toe-to-toe with O'Reilly on taxes, oil prices, the media's coverage of the campaign and her signature issue: health care reform. He badgered her; she matched him, hit for hit. He was confrontational (I know, you're thinking: "O'Reilly? Confrontational? NOOOOO!!!!"); she deftly deflected his tone with a wide smile. He interrupted her; she kept right on talking. He tried to pigeonhole her into saying something positive about Fox News (the unforgivable in Democratic circles); she delivered the money line of the night: "Are you surprised ... that Fox News has been fairer to you than NBC News and a lot of the other liberal news networks? Are you surprised?" he said.
"I wouldn't expect anything less than a fair and balanced coverage of my campaign," she sardonically cooed.
The highlights of the interview were the segment on health care coverage, which you can see here, and the exchange about tax policy, which you can see here.
Clinton was at remarkable ease throughout the interview. She corrected O'Reilly's misstatements as necessary, laughed off his attacks and reframed her arguments to rebut his comments.
There was one curious moment when she said she had learned a lesson from Ronald Reagan about bipartisanship.
(Pause for historically relevant flashback: Barack Obama took a ton of heat from the Clintons ahead of the Nevada caucuses for saying that Reagan "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not." I guess it's OK for Hillary Clinton to learn a lesson from Reagan, as long as she doesn't praise him ...? Another Clinton double standard.)But that was a minor issue in an interview in which Clinton simply sparkled. If her goal was to reinforce her image as a fighter, she succeeded, and in a big way. It was as if she was sitting at a lunch table debating politics with a co-worker. Far from backing down, she forcefully defended and advanced her positions and challenged his without the strident tone that has so often characterized her style.
Her advisers had to have been thinking, "Where has this woman been all this time?"
Hillary on O'Reilly ... it had to have drawn a huge audience -- an audience, we can be sure, that included a whole lot of delegates to the Democratic National Convention -- and that's good news for the junior senator from New York.
One final note: Hillary Clinton may very well be the only person ever to get Bill O'Reilly to call President Teddy Roosevelt a socialist ("Was Teddy Roosevelt a socialist?" she said; "Somewhat," he replied).
This IS a history-making election!
As the aftershocks of Barack Obama's seismic denunciation of Jeremiah Wright continue to rattle the political landscape, new poll numbers show Hillary Clinton gaining on Obama in the Tarheel State.
Although a Rasmussen survey puts Obama's current lead as high as 14 percent, a SurveyUSA poll places it in single digits -- and just outside the margin or error -- at 5 percent. But, much like the Olympic scoring system that tosses the highest and lowest marks, the latest RealClearPolitics poll -- which averages several other polls -- pegs the spread at 10.3 percent in Obama's favor.
Take a look at the trend lines: Since April 7, when Clinton hit her low point of 31.5 percent, she's picked up 8.5 points while Obama has gained fewer than two.
It's crucial to remember that this poll is based on surveys that were completed either Sunday or Monday -- before Wright's spirited appearance before the National Press Club, and Obama's reaction to it, dominated cable news and political punditry for a day and a half.
If the next round of polls show Obama further weakened by Wright and the continuing controversy surrounding him, it could be the turning point in the race for the Democratic nomination. I know everyone is expecting Indiana to be the next battleground between these two candidates. But I think the results from North Carolina will tell us more about the long run: If he wins, it will show that he can absorb a tremendous hit (which this week has been in political terms) and retain viability. If he Obama can't pull off a win, and a comfortable win, in a state where he had a comfortable advantage just a week ago, it will spell real trouble for him with delegates and the electability argument the Clinton camp has been hammering for weeks.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Barack Obama weighed in on the Jeremiah Wright Traveling Media Carnival this afternoon, calling remarks his former pastor made at the National Press Club yesterday "divisive," "destructive" and "appalling."
I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me ...(Full transcript of the news conference here.)
People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that’s what we should be talking about.
And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me.
Right-wing radio was aflame with feigned surprise, mocking with incredulity that Obama was "just coming to know" the real Jeremiah Wright. They all but accused him of lying about Wright and his extremist positions. Rush Limbaugh said Obama didn't throw Wright under the bus; he had "blasted (Obama) off the planet." He then went on to rue the way the "drive-by media" would excuse Obama's late arrival to today's strong position and characterize his outrage as courageous.
Conspiracy theorists are in overdrive. The New York Daily News broke the story that a Clinton supporter helped arrange Wright's appearance at the NPC yesterday (an NPC spokesman said the connection was chance, not conspiracy), while former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speculated that Wright continues to make a spectacle (Obama's word) of himself and this controversy to purposely damage Obama's campaign.
So what does this mean to Obama? Conspiracy or no, one week from tonight we'll be hearing election results from North Carolina and Indiana. Conventional wisdom holds that Obama wouldn't have reacted to Wright's latest performance, thus keeping it in the news, unless internal polls showed that it was critical to do so. At this point, it's almost a question of what will hurt less: ignoring Wright and hoping he'll go away, or lancing the boil at the expense of renewing the news cycle.
There's a segment of the population that will never forgive Obama for his association with Wright and always attribute Wright's statements to Obama. Right-wing radio, of course, is part of this group. They were busy today vilifying Obama for not disavowing Wright sooner, not leaving the church sooner, not rejecting his earlier comments in a stronger way, etc. For them, whatever Obama does will always be too little, too late.
And there are Obama apologists who would explain it away even if Obama had stood by everything Wright ever said.
The question is, how much room is there in the middle -- not only of the Democratic Party, but of the nation as a whole?
That's the question delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be trying to figure out over the next two months.
First, Jerry Springer considered it. Then, Al Franken did it. Could Chris Matthews be next?
Speculation is intensifying that Matthews may make himself a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, according to this storyfrom the New York Sun.
Matthews is offering tepid denials of his intentions to run on one hand while using his MSNBC show, Hardball, to host influential elected officials and other party leaders from the state on the other. You can read the analysis about how pundits believe Matthews would play as a Democrat -- surprise -- in the Commonwealth.
I just want to point out that if Barack Obama is elected and Matthews decide to run on the Democratic ticket in 2010, can you imagine what a rally with the two of them would look like? Matthews can hardly keep a dry bib on as it is. If Obama comes to Pennsylvania as president to campaign for Matthews, the Secret Service will have to send an advance team with rubber stage mats -- and the White House mop team.
Karl Rove must be bored.
Rove, the mastermind of victories that put George W. Bush in the White House and kept him there, is regarded among Democrats as the very personification of evil. They blame him for everything from the Iraq war to gas prices and accuse him of exploiting his position of power to engineer persecution of fellow Democrats (see Don Siegelman).
In a column for Newsweek magazine, Rove reaches out to Barack Obama -- who was, the last time I checked, a Democrat -- and gives him the political equivalent of brotherly advice, telling him that the "weary, prickly and distracted tone" his stump speeches have taken, his inability to address the Jeremiah Wright controversy with "one, simple explanation. And stay with it" and a "lack of achievements" in the Senate that "undercuts (his) core themes" are the reasons his campaign has taken a turn for the worse.
- Write a new stump speech.
- Cozy up to Republicans.
- Spend less time campaigning and more time in the Senate.
- "Stop the attacks."
I laughed as I read Rove's open letter to Obama. The idea that the architect of two Bush victories -- and, indeed, the wildly successful overall voter outreach strategy that elected or returned several hundred other Republicans to office throughout the country -- would help a member of the party he has dedicated his life to fighting is too funny to be plausible.
In diagnosing Obama's problems and in suggesting solutions to them, Rove doesn't miss an opportunity to deliver the same familiar Republican digs against Obama, even as he purports to be helping. Let's look at Rove's "advice:"
- Rove tells Obama to discard his old stump speech -- the one focusing on hope and change, the one that has drawn and continues to draw millions to his rallies, the one that invites comparisons to Kennedy -- in favor of a new one focused on the general election. That would be great advice -- if the race for the Democratic nomination was finished. It's all but certain that Obama will be locked in a heated battle for delegates (all delegates are, in effect, superdelegates; click here) with Hillary Clinton throughout the summer and possibly even into the convention. Ignoring that fact by assuming the nomination will alienate delegates who are looking for Obama to show some general election-worthy fight, and it will serve only to reinforce the image of him as an aloof elitist.
- He encourages Obama to begin identifying Republicans he would name to Cabinet posts and "highlight initiatives Republicans can agree on." This would make Obama a target in his own party by giving Clinton ammunition that Obama isn't committed enough to Democratic principles. In addition to being portrayed as not black enough, not patriotic enough and not experienced enough, Obama would also be portrayed to members of his own party as being not Democratic enough. Bipartisanship is good during the general election, but it can be downright detrimental when you're fighting for the support of hard core, lifelong partisans.
- Rove encourages Obama to leave the campaign trail, where he is meeting voters, to return to the Senate to "pick a big issue and fight for it." In addition to giving feet to what Obama calls "the fierce urgency of now," Rove argues that it will "give (Obama's) argument substance." In addition to, again, reinforcing the aloof-elitist label as discussed above, it would doom Obama to toiling in assured futility; everyone knows that for all the complaints about a "do-nothing Congress," even less gets done in an election year, when regular Washington partisanship is replaced by Washington hyperpartisanship and everything is an opportunity for direct mail.
- Rove's next gem is simply, "Stop the attacks." This is, without a doubt, the funniest part of Rove's article. If he wasn't a uberoperative, Rove could write for Colbert. Stop the attacks? This, coming from one of the most vicious attack dogs in the GOP kennel? Stop the attacks, coming from someone who has made his living attacking Democrats? Stop the attacks? Stop it, Karl; I can hardly breathe.
Rove uses the other two points -- stick to one explanation and give concrete examples of what he'd do as president -- to simply tweak Obama with the regular GOP lines.
But Obama has an opportunity with this piece, and it's not to take Karl Rove's advice. It's apparent that the "advice" is meant not to empower Obama and right his campaign, but rather to weaken Obama to the point where Democrats turn to Clinton as the authentic, experienced, tough Democratic standard-bearer the party faithful will need in November.
If Mitt Romney was the GOP nominee, it probably wouldn't matter which candidate Democrats installed at the top of the ticket. A Romney-Obama general election campaign would look much the same as a Romney-Clinton race. But with McCain as its nominee, the GOP knows that moderates and independents will be at a premium in the fall -- especially if social conservatives recruit a candidate that saps right-wing votes from McCain, one half of the nightmare scenario for the GOP.
The other half of that nightmare scenario is Obama, because Republicans know that he would draw more moderate Republicans and independents than John McCain will draw moderate Democrats and independents. With party registrations through the roof throughout this primary season, especially on the Democratic side, it's imperative that Rove and Republican strategists like him do all they can to run against Clinton, the GOP's dream opponent.
As the Democratic race descends into a streetfight for delegates and the candidates increasingly argue their electability, Obama can capitalize on Rove's letter by showing delegates that Republicans are more concerned about running against him than facing Clinton in the fall.
They've sent their top dog out to try to ensure the matchup they want -- and that should be all Rove-hating Democrats need to hear.
Monday, April 28, 2008
It seems that there may be a light, however faint, at the end of the tunnel for those of us who abhor the current system of financing political campaigns in the United States.
On Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Barack Obama -- who is "on pace to raise more than $300 million in the primaries" -- expressed an interest in remaining in the public finance system for the general election against GOP nominee-to-be John McCain if he is the Democratic nominee:
It will be interesting to watch how Mr. Campaign Finance Reform responds to this. Many people believe that McCain-Feingold was a step in the right direction, but its weakness -- uneven enforcement -- was also an asset, because it exposed other avenues (READ: 527s) ripe for exploitation and abuse.
WALLACE: The Wall Street Journal says that you are prepared to run the first privately-financed campaign - presidential campaign since Watergate. True?
OBAMA: Look, we’ve done a wonderful job raising money from the grassroots. I’m very proud of the fact that in March, in February for example, 90 percent of our donations came over the Internet. Our average donation is $96. And we’ve done an amazing job, I think, of mobilizing people, to finance our campaigns in small increments. I have promised that I will sit down with John McCain and talk about, can we preserve a public system, as long as we are taking into account third party, independent expenditures, because what I don’t intend to –
WALLACE: If you could get that agreement you would go for a publicly financed campaign?
OBAMA: What I don’t intend to do is to allow huge amounts of money to be spent by the RNC, the Republican National Committee or by organizations like the Swift Boat organization and just stand there without –
WALLACE: If you get that agreement?
OBAMA: I would be very interested in pursuing public financing because I think not every candidate is going to be able to do what I’ve done in this campaign and I think it’s important to think about future campaigns.
Full transcript here.
Will McCain step up and agree to plug the holes that keep McCain-Feingold from making the kind of difference it otherwise could? Or will he hide from the opportunity to create real -- dare I say it? -- change, even on one of his signature issues?
His answer will determine whether that light at the end of the tunnel is long-awaited, long-overdue relief for the weary American voter, or a freight train set to flatten them once again.
What's going on with Jeremiah Wright?
Wright spent weeks in near-isolation, canceling many appearances in guest pulpits across the country as those omnipresent clips of his sermons played out, nearly 24/7, on cable news and the web.
Now, over the past week, he has gone from near invisible to being ubiquitous. He's everywhere.
He emerged with an interview with PBS's Bill Moyers on Thursday; Sunday night, he gave the keynote speech at the NAACP dinner in Detroit; this morning, he appeared at the National Press Club.
(Click here for one-stop coverage from the Detroit Free Press on Wright's appearance at the $150-a-head NAACP dinner. Page includes forward and follow-up stories, video clips of Wright's speech in its entirety and other related items.)
At each of these appearances, Wright has made a series of characteristically controversial statements -- including an argument, made to the NAACP, against applying the same educational standards to young black students as are applied to young white students -- that he has mixed with comments about his dreams for racial reconciliation, healing, etc.
After Barack Obama has spent the last six weeks explaining his relationship with Wright and fending off and responding to criticism over some of Wright's most controversial statements (including that the federal government might have created HIV to destroy the black population), Obama seemed on the cusp of finally putting the powder keg that is this issue behind him.
Then, Wright's media tour began, and those clips started running all over again. But this time, there were new ones, like his education argument, that serve to give voters pause about Obama's judgment all over again.
Why does Wright choose this time, the last week, to go on the media offensive? He has mentioned a book that he is writing, but it won't be available until the fall, so it can't be to plug his product. Perhaps it's to publicize a coming summit on racial issues that will be taking place at his church, Trinity United Church of Christ, and other churches across the country in the next few weeks.
On Chris Wallace's show yesterday, Obama demurred when asked what he thought of Wright's media tour, saying he understood why Wright felt the need to defend himself but stopping short of endorsing his former pastor's efforts.
If you think you're sick of seeing Wright everywhere you look, imagine how Obama must feel. Everyone knows that whatever Wright's reasons for reappearing, the reality is that the more we see of Jeremiah Wright, the worse it is for Barack Obama.
I watched his speech last night and much of his remarks this morning and wondered about the enigma that is the fiery pastor. He is charismatic and engaging, yet he borders many times on hostile. He claims the words of the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ, but he mocks with sardonic, unapologetic disdain his critics in the media. Obviously an learned man whose education enables him to speak with incredible clarity and passion, he argues against ensuring those same standards of education for black youth.
I was talking with someone about this subject this weekend, and we agreed that the greatest irony in all this talk about race relations would be if a black pastor ended up being the reason this nation doesn't have its first black president in 2009.
You've no doubt heard the terrible, henious story about the 73-year-old Austrian man who has reportedly confessed to kidnappping his own daughter, stashing her away in a windowless cellar and repeatedly raping her for 24 years -- and fathering seven children by her.
We now have this guy's mug shot ... am I the only one, or does he remind anyone else of another creepy fella:
Josef F. of Austria, above
Drew Peterson of Bolingbrook, Ill., above
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I have waited all week to share some terrific and exciting news with you!
It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention. If that's ever been true, it's true of this blog. For months, I struggled to cram all kinds of good political news into my weekly column, which appears in print on Saturdays in the Opelika-Auburn News. The result was often frustrating: either for me, when I felt that I didn't adequately cover everything, or for long-suffering Editorial Page Editor Joe McAdory, who often felt that he could only fit the finished column on the page in 2-point font (I'm only halfway kidding -- right, Joe?).
Super Tuesday was Waterloo for that approach. I knew that news would be coming in all day, and I knew that if I tried to cover all the ins and outs of the Super-Duper Uber-Tuesday and all the postgame analysis in one column, my head would explode.
Enter the blog.
I set up a Blogger account, figuring that I could sit here on my couch and opine away to my heart's content throughout the night and into the early morning hours (like I'm doing now). It made me happy because I didn't have to feel guilty for my word count. It made Joe happy because he didn't have to tell me for the 257th time that the column didn't fit.
Super Tuesday came and went, but I kept the blog. It's been an interesting process, especially learning HTML code, but it's been a lot of fun. And I can indulge my political addiction without fear of complicating anyone else's life. I've had the unexpected pleasure of interacting with readers from all around the world as hits have slowly but steadily increased.
And that brings me to the big announcement:
This past week, OA News publisher Jim Rainey graciously invited me to bring the Clarion Caller Blog under his newspaper's umbrella: I'm moving to the OA News platform!Essentially, what this means for you is one-stop shopping for my print and web-based work. Our content will remain the same: I'll still provide you with news and views on politics and current affairs, from Railroad to Pennsylvania avenues and everywhere in between. I'll work on developing more state and local content, and that's where you come in: If you have tips, rumors, innuendo, questions, outrage or incredulity about politics or government, I want to hear from you. Have an idea for how the U.S. can become more energy independent? Wondering what might happen to the grocery tax amendment since Alabama House members can't keep their "little grimy hands" off each other's voting machines? Want to sound off about the redesign -- and delay -- of Opelika's Frederick Road project? Drop me a line. If you're interested in it, I want to know about it!
Many of you have been reading this blog (some more regularly than others; you know who you are!) since it began, and others of you have followed my print column since it first appeared one year ago this week. To those of you who read every day, to those who just stumbled in by accident and to everyone in between, you have had a part in this, and I thank you. I look forward to the next steps in this adventure and hope you'll be along for the ride!
We're hoping to go live in the new location within the next few days. I'll provide more details about the move as they become available. Until then, check out the blog's new home at oanow.com!
P.S. Thanks, Jim!
Just hours after I wrote the earlier post about the reunification of an 18-year-old girl who had been abandoned at birth and the man who found her and saved her life, a retired police officer and his son stumbled upon a newborn baby boy abandoned in a patch of weeds in Palmetto, Fla., just miles from my hometown:
"It was very pink, like a dark pink, almost a red. Like when you go to Wal-Mart and see those pink dolls, that's what I thought I had," (Randy) Petroskey said. "I saw one foot move and that's when I called 911."What possesses a person to leave a defenseless infant in a patch of weeds and a pile of ants?? It is just incomprehensible to me!!
The naked baby was about three feet into a weeded area. His umbilical cord and placenta were still attached as he lay on his side, covered with flies and ants. The right side of his head was slightly swollen.
Petroskey immediately took off his Ohio State Polo shirt to wrap the infant. Nick stayed on the phone with Emergency Communications Center.
They were advised to wrap the baby up but make sure his face was uncovered so he could breath.
Petroskey wiped the bugs off the child's body.
They took a floor mat out of the Explorer to place the child on and went to get towels at a local restaurant to keep the boy warm until paramedics arrived.
"I just can't believe people would do this," Petroskey said. "They just didn't want it."
Palmetto Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Tyler said police were concerned about the health of the mother and questioning local businesses to see if anyone had seen a pregnant woman in the area. He said she likely gave birth in the weeds ...
If no one claims the boy, he will be placed in state custody, Tyler said.
But he marveled at the coincidence that led to the boy's discovery -- and his survival.
"It was just an act of God, a miracle, whatever you want to call it," he said.
For more on this story, check out the full Bradenton Herald story, which also provides information about Florida's aforementioned Safe Haven for Newborns law, here.
Abandoning babies ... It is unthinkable, and it simply doesn't have to happen -- anywhere.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Q. What do FM radio, McDonald's, Indonesia and plutonium have in common?
A. They're all younger than McCain.
John S. McCain, the GOP presidential nominee-to-be, was born on Aug. 29, 1936. At 71, he's ... "kinda old," according to this YouTube video.
Some of the other things that are, according to the video, YoungerThanMcCain:
- The Golden Gate Bridge;
- The Lincoln Tunnel;
- Burger King;
- Coke in a can;
- Color TV, and ...
- "Dick ... Freakin' ... Cheney."
Agism, racism, sexism ... this presidential race has it all!
If you watch the news at all, you know that every segment brings the chance that you'll hear something horrible: Children murdered. Women raped. Babies abused.
We've all heard a story or two about a baby who's been abandoned. Nearly every state has a form of the so-called "Safe Haven" law, allowing birth parents to drop off their newborns in designated locations like fire stations and hospitals with no questions asked. The laws exist to protect babies who might otherwise be left in dangerous locations -- or, inconceivably, simply discarded like trash.
But there were no Safe Haven laws 18 years ago, when Baby Girl Doe, just hours old, was abandoned in a car in Texas. As Providence would have it, Bill Kotch was passing by that day. He discovered the baby and called authorities, who her into state custody. Kotch never knew what became of the little one he rescued from certain death on the morning of April 5, 1990.
But all that changed recently, when Baby Girl Doe -- who was adopted and became Bethany Laroche -- turned 18. She tracked down Kotch, contacted him and asked for a meeting. Kotch agreed and attended her birthday party. He had no way of knowing that he would be the one to end up with a gift.
What happened next will warm your hearts, if it doesn't bring tears to your eyes. See the story here.
This is an example of how certain tragedies can turn into blessings, if only people are determined not to look away. It speaks to the need for us to look out for each other -- and especially for the youngest ones among us.
Florida's safe haven foundation is representative of others around the country. It exists to ensure that no baby will be left to fate, as Bethany Laroche was 18 years ago.
The lives of 98 little ones saved in Florida alone -- so far -- are their enduring legacies.
To find out whether your state has a safe haven law, click here.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
(Just bumping this post from Tuesday night ...)
I want to issue a global challenge to everyone out there in the blogosphere:
I have been looking for an e-mail address for Gloria Borger for at least two months. I've used all my powers, and I haven't been able to find one.
Anyone out there who can turn up an e-mail address for Gloria for me, I'll publicly recognize your super sleuthing skills here on this blog. I'll publicize your blog, if you have one, or reciprocate in some other relevant way.
Gloria is a CNN pundit. Here's a link to her anchor page at CNN's web site.
Come on, guys, help me out ... Let the race begin!
Leave it to Barack Obama to put the long, L-O-N-G campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in perspective.
"I've been running for president for about 15 months now, which means that there are babies who are now walking and talking who were born since I announced for president," he said Wednesday during a campaign stop in New Albany, Ind. "This has been a long primary season."It will be at least another three weeks -- and if it goes all the way to the convention, it could be another four months.
For more on the "grueling" schedules of the candidates and how they have taken their toll, check out this great AP story by Liz Sidoti.
It was brutally obvious the moment it happened.
Last night on Larry King Live, the host of the long-running talk show had just finished a wild first half with James Carville, Bill Richardson and other assorted surrogates of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He was limping through a painfully boring interview with First Lady Laura Bush and Jenna Bush when he asked Laura Bush whether she is keeping up with the presidential campaign.
KING: Do you have a favorite between the two, the two Democrats?King nearly came out of his chair, pointing his pointy pointer finger at the First Twin and saying, "A-ha! Are you open to ..."
LAURA BUSH: My favorite is the Republican.
KING (pointing to Jenna): Yours too, I would imagine.
JENNA BUSH: I don't know.
"Yeah, of course," she said breezily. "I mean, who isn't open to learning about the candidates and I'm sure that everybody's like that."
I looked up from the dishes. In an instant, the interview had transformed from a flowery meadow filled with innocuous niceties to a fiery pit with flames lapping at her feet. Likely sensing that she was balancing on the precipice of disaster, and as King struggled to keep from hyperventilating, Jenna didn't give him a chance to give voice to the unspeakable thought. She quickly moved to minimize the whole line of discussion -- even though it had lasted fewer than 15 seconds -- and refocus King on the TOTALLY AWESOME BOOK TOUR she was there to publicize and the SO-FUN WEDDING coming up.
"But I really -- I honestly have been too busy with books to really pay that much attention," Jenna blurted out.
And that was the end of that.
So of course the blogosphere is abuzz with "BUSH'S DAUGHTER MIGHT NOT SUPPORT MCCAIN!!" hysteria. WHO CARES?? Actually, I think that McCain's campaign is missing a good opportunity here. If I was managing him, I'd have him out in front of the cameras saying something like this:
"Well, no, to tell you the truth, I wasn't surprised by Jenna's comments. After all, we hope -- we expect -- that Americans will carefully consider their choice for president, because it's such an important, personal decision for each individual. Jenna Bush has that same right and responsibility, and that doesn't change just because her dad is the president.What do you think?
"But I will make the same case to Jenna Bush that I will make to the rest of the country: that we need a leader who is tested and ready to be president on day one. I have confidence that Jenna Bush, as I do in the American people as a whole, as she examines the issues and watches this campaign develop, will agree. I look forward to earning her vote, and I wish her all the best."
On a side note, Jenna Bush also mentioned that she and Chelsea Clinton "are going to get together for coffee one day." That was another interesting point, but King seemed to morph into a sorority hostess as he talked about it:
KING: Do you feel a kinship with Chelsea?Hey, Larry: I bet you can totally get the girls together at the next Delta Nu-Delta Tau Chi mixer.
J. BUSH: Yes, of course. I mean --
KING: It's a tough life.
J. BUSH: It's tough and it's amazing. I mean, the opportunities that we both had -- Chelsea's had too on the campaign trail with her mom. I mean, I saw her last night on TV, and I thought, that's a lot of fun that they get to do that together. And also, the opportunities to travel and see the world with her mother and her father. I mean, those are amazing opportunities. I do -- we're going to get together for coffee one day.
KING: You want to do that.
J. BUSH: Yes.
KING: You ought to call her.
J. BUSH: I will. She's probably a little busy right now. We'll wait.
KING: The two of you would really get along.
J. BUSH: Oh, absolutely.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
It's late night -- time for true confessions here on the Clarion Caller Blog.
Anytime a pundit has attained the ability to be known only by first name, you know he's got it going on. Such is the case with James Carville -- who is simply known as The James. He is to politics what Oprah or Ellen is to TV talk. If there are two kinds of people in the world -- lovers and fighters -- James Carville is one of the latter. Take a Louisiana Cajun, add Irish ancestry, mix in two years as a U.S. Marine and sprinkle a bit of litigation experience on top, and you have James, who was born to fight.
And he's good at it. He's very, very good at it.
Carville is a believer in the adversarial system of politics that is this country's heritage. There's nothing negative about political combat; it's just politics. And there's something to be said for putting a candidate for public office through some fire before he (or she) takes on the heavy mantle of governance. So Carville is unapologetic, as his nickname -- the "Ragin' Cajun" -- implies.
But who has time for apologies, anyway, when you're so busy winning?
James had some notable early success in consulting, but he made his bones by taking on the sorry, sagging campaign of a candidate 40 points down. By the time James got finished taking his defibrillator to the operation, people were calling his candidate Sen. Harris Wofford.
And you know what happened in 1992.
Need a refresher? "It's the economy, stupid."
If James has a weakness (and that's a big IF), it's his partner. No, not his wife, Republican pundit Mary Matalin. It's Paul Begala, with whom Carville founded a consulting company and managed many campaigns (including the Wofford campaign). Carville is like the witty and fascinating star quarterback who is just as at home starring on the football team as he does on the Academic Team, whereas Begala is more like that annoying, smarmy kid who followed you around all the time, constantly correcting you and arguing with you about whether the sun was up, and you'd like nothing more than to just give him a good slap now and then.
I freely admit my bias where James Carville is concerned. I don't always agree with him and I don't always agree with his politics, but I simply love listening to him. I will rearrange my schedule to be in front of the TV if I know he's going to be on. Heck, I'm even watching a rerun of Larry King Live when I already saw it three hours ago.
James is already the premier political strategist on the Democratic side (as much as he would hate this comparison, he is to the Democratic Party what Karl Rove has been to the GOP, which is indispensable) and -- I believe, at least -- in the country. But if he can take Hillary Clinton's campaign from its near-death experience just a few weeks ago to victory in Denver, The James will ascend to the political equivalent of Mount Olympus.
Check out James' web site here. It's informative and entertaining ... just like James.
I'm watching the rerun of Larry King Live now ... James Carville's actual quote about the New York Times was this:
"The New York Times, God bless 'em, they're good, well-meaning people over there, but they don't know anything about politics."I love James Carville.
There's been a lot of talk today about this morning's New York Times editorial, "The Low Road to Victory," that took Hillary Clinton's campaign to task for its methods in Pennsylvania:
The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.Ouch.
Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
And this was from a newspaper -- her hometown newspaper -- that endorsed her in the primary.
The Times went on to hammer Hillary for becoming "the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11" in a fear-provoking TV ad that was "torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook." But the editorial also targeted Barack Obama for "increasingly rising to Mrs. Clinton's bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher more inclusive form of politics.
"All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience," the editorial said.
The Times went on to conclude that for all the sound and fury about the differences Clinton and Obama want to beat into the brains of voters -- whether their health care plans cover everyone, what they would do about bringing troops home from Iraq, who can do more to move the country toward energy independence, etc. -- it's actually an asset to the party that they share many of the same essential values and sensible policy prescriptions.
"It is their strength, and they are doing their best to make voters forget it," the Times sniffed.
In his appearance on Larry King Live tonight, Clinton supporter James Carville said (and I'm paraphrasing) that the New York Times is a good newspaper, but they don't know anything about politics. (You've gotta love The James.) He went on to scold Obama for Obama's reported unwillingness to debate Clinton in Indiana and North Carolina (those debates would be the 21st and 22nd of the series). He said later on Anderson Cooper 360 that when you're running for president, "you can't go hide behind the New York Times' editorialists' skirt" every time controversy erupts; Clintonista Paul Begala chimed in, calling the Times' editorial board staffers "ninnies," "wimps" or "wussies."
This may be a complete coincidence, but as I was listening to Paul Begala, I suddenly felt the urge to relive the days of my young childhood and break into a chorus of, "I know you are, but what am I?" or "I'm rubber, you're glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you!"
SIDEBAR: It would have been nice for Carville to have informed us when the newspaper endorsed Hillary Clinton that its writers don't know anything about politics. Or maybe he believes they've forgotten everything since they endorsed her ...? END SIDEBARAnyway, the Times noted in its endorsement of Clinton that "any Democrat will face tougher questioning about his or her fitness to be commander in chief," so its objection to the nastily negative turn the campaign took in Pennsylvania is not based in a desire to see tough questions go unasked. Rather, the Times is simply demanding that the candidates keep their debate above board -- and for two people who purport to have the leadership skills to take the helm of our great nation and tackle the complex problems we face, something as simple as civil campaigning should be a piece of cake.